Sunday, September 16, 2012

I hate cats: a mock scientific presentation

If you continually interact with scientists, you will someday end up in the fighting arena of the scientific world, the presentation.

I have heard that non-scientific presentations are completely different. Apparently, in business presentations, the audience actually listens to the whole talk and waits till the end to ask questions.

Scientific presentations are nothing like that.

Below is a fake transcript of a talk including interruptions entitled “I hate cats”. (Many of the fake audience members (AM) are based on real incidents.)

Me: Welcome to my talk entitled “I hate cats.”
AM1 (old jaded grad student determined to spread his/her bitterness): How do you know you hate cats?

Me: Uh, that’s the subject of this talk.

AM2 (upstart grad student convinced he knows everything after his first semester of grad school): I don’t believe you. How can you hate all cats? What about tigers?

Me: Well, I do like tigers. I mostly mean pet cats.

AM2: So the talk should really be titled “I hate domesticated cats.”

Me: Yes, fine, let’s move past the title slide. 

Me: Cats are evil. They will attack you for no reason.

AM3 (young professor trying to get tenure): What’s your evidence for this?

Me: A cat came up and scratched me when I was sitting on a couch at a friend’s house once.

AM3: Has every cat you’ve encountered attacked you?

Me: No.

AM3 (disgruntled look):  I think your sample size is too small. Not all cats are like that.

Me: Well, I don’t like cats so it’s not like I seek them out. 

Me: Reason #2. I get all sneezy when I’m around them. They cause horrible allergies.

AM4: Not everyone is allergic to cats.

Me: I never claimed that everyone was.

AM5: That does not seem like a reason to hate cats. It’s not the cat’s fault.

Me: I don’t care. They’re evil. 

Me: Finally, cats, unlike dogs, are the worst because they don’t like to cuddle. They might be content to sit with you for a minute, but then suddenly they leave.

AM6: I have a cat, he loves to cuddle.

AM7: Yeah, my cat loves cuddling too.

AM8: Kittens like to cuddle.

Me: Well, I’ve never been able to find a cat that likes to cuddle. 

Me: So for the three reasons outlined here, cats are horrible and I hate them very much. I will now take any questions.

Polite applause.

AM2: Have you polled any other people about this topic?

Me: Yes, I’ve met many other cat haters.

AM1: I have grown up with cats my whole life, and I’ve never had any problems with them. I disagree with your entire talk.

Me: Thank you for your feedback.

AM4 (professor with rival beliefs): I have an alternate theory. I believe that in reality, cats hate you, not the other way around. This hatred manifests itself in the ways you listed in your talk. Your hatred is simply a reaction to their more intense hatred.

AM5: Dogs are the real menace to society. They bark, slobber, and poop everywhere. In short, they are terrible.

Me: Do you have a question?

AM5: Yes, do you agree with this statement?

Me: No. Ok, next question.

AM9 (crotchety old professor): Back in my day, cats lived in barns. None of this new-fangled nonsense about having cats indoors.

Me: Great, thanks for your input. Thank you everyone for listening. We don’t have time for any more questions.
-- End script--

For a real talk, replace everything about cats with scientific experiments and theories. This enactment of a scientific talk should prepare you for the cast of characters you’ll encounter at a scientific talk.

PS: Don’t worry, only a small percentage of the animosity in the room will actually be real. 

1 comment:

  1. Even in business presentations, I've had to use the "Great, thanks for your input" line even when I want to throttle half of the people in the room. Also, this entire post made me LOL, so thanks for that :)